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COROMANDEL: A Personal History of South India
Bibliophile price: £6.00
Born in 1940 in Cawnpore of parents both Indian-born British, Charles Allen spent the first eight years of his life in the privileged surroundings of the ruling class, departing for England in early 1948, days after Gandhi's assassination. He has since become one of the great chroniclers of the Indian subcontinent and for four decades has travelled its length and breadth revealing the spirit of India through its history, geography and people. Coromandel is the name long-used by Europeans for the Northern Tamil Country, or more simply the eastern coast of the Indian peninsula. These Tamil or Dravidian regions have a very different history and identity to Indo-Aryan central and northern India and are less travelled, explored and written about, particularly by Westerners. During his extensive adventures in the South he meets historians, gurus and local people and with their help uncovers some extraordinary and little-known stories from the past. As he goes we are swept along with his infectious narrative, taking in the archaeology, religion, linguistics, anthropology and politics of the region, showing how these have all had major effects on modern India, learning as much about the past as we do of the present. What is especially enjoyable is the wide range of b/w photos, maps, artworks, drawings depicting a delightfully wide range of subjects from erotic carvings and ancient statuary to starched-uniformed British officers engaging with wild-haired ascetics and warlords, including Tipu Sultan, he of "Tippoo's Tiger" fame, the incredible mechanical pipe organ made to celebrate the killing of the son of General Sir Hector Munro by a tiger. Be entertained, educated and enlightened. 426pp.

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